HTML5 and Flash challenge mobile app dynamics

Ovum's 3Q10 “Smartphone Capability Analyzer” update shows that although application stores have become the norm, increasing support for HTML5 and Flash pose a threat to platform-specific mobile development. Meanwhile, proprietary web widget platforms dominate at the expense of JIL support, but the merger with the WAC may lead to renewed interest in the standard.
Pre-installed application stores become standard
Pre-installed application stores are now a standard feature on smartphones, present on all but one handset. This ubiquity of application stores underlines the importance of user-installable applications in the smartphone market. Following the course set by Apple, by pre-installing application stores, platform providers and handset vendors are able to exert control over this growing market by specifying the terms and, more importantly, the business models for mobile applications.
Aside from Apple, few platforms have extended their dominant position in the mobile application market to also specify content and media services to their users, though this is set to change with the launch of Windows Phone 7.
Growing support for Flash puts increasing pressure on Apple
Support for Flash 10 has arrived as part of the Android 2.2 update and will be increasingly deployed pre-installed as more devices ship with Android 2.2. Considering the rate at which new Android handsets are being released (an increase of 98% from 42 handsets in 2Q10 to 82 in 3Q10), we expect to see pre-installed Flash 10 support quickly become widespread.
In addition to Android, Flash support is set to grow across other platforms, with BlackBerry, WebOS, Windows Phone, LiMo, MeeGo, and Symbian all announcing that they will support Flash 10 in the future. This widespread adoption will place increasing pressure on Apple to support Flash on iOS devices from both developers and end users, who will expect to access the same services across all devices.
In addition to garnering support for Flash 10, Adobe has also launched its own store for Flash and AIR applications, called InMarket. The ability to run applications across multiple platforms is clearly a big draw for developers, and this will prove a threat to the dominance of platform vendors and OEMs in the mobile applications market.
Support for HTML5 grows
The growth of HTML5 also poses a threat to the dominance of the mobile applications market, with the proportion of handsets with partial support increasing from 30% in 2Q10 to more than half in 3Q10. The final HTML5 specification is still to be agreed, but the high adoption rate of the interim features illustrates the high level of interest platform vendors have in the standard.
HTML5 is set to bring about an improved mobile Internet experience through enhanced rendering for smaller screens, and improved speed and offline functionality through the ability to store data locally on the device. Ovum’s mobile application developer survey found that developers are interested in any platform which gives them a cross-device reach, meaning that HTML5 is likely to be a popular with them. As a result, HTML5 poses a threat to the current dominance of platform-specific mobile development.
JIL support falters, but WAC merger may lead to renewed support
Despite some interest towards the beginning of the year, the number of handsets supporting JIL has actually dropped to just three in 3Q10. Vendors are instead focusing on their own proprietary web widget platforms, which are now present on 98% of smartphones.
However, following the merger of JIL with the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) and the release of the WAC 1.0 specification, we expect to see renewed interest in the standard. A number of major handset vendors including Samsung, LG Electronics, Huawei, and ZTE are members of the WAC, making it likely that the standard will be supported on at least some of their handsets in the future. Ovum believes that WAC/JIL faces a number of challenges: most notably, proving that it has value for developers above and beyond the vendor-driven HTML5 implementations and the future HTML5 specification.